In my last review, I talked about a time when I needed to use alternate drinking water sources at my house. The filters for my reverse osmosis system needed to be replaced and I didn’t have a spare set on-hand. Since my local big box retailer no longer has these filters in the store, I had to order them online. So I had to wait about a week to receive the new filters, hence the need for an alternate drinking water source. Fortunately, I had two on-hand that I could use. The first one I reviewed was the Brita Filter Pitcher, which was…OK. The one I am going to review now is a Berkey Water Filter (“Travel” model), which is a much better system in my experience. It has many merits along with a few shortcomings, which I will explain in more detail below.
Berkey Water Filter Review
The unit itself looks like an old-fashioned coffee percolator. It has two circular stainless steel pots that are stacked. The upper chamber houses the filters (two in this model) whereas the bottom on collects the water and contains the spigot. There is a lid that goes on top of the upper chamber too. The entire unit stands just over 19″ high and is just under 8″ in diameter. New Millennium Concepts manufacturers five different modes from stainless steel, all of which use a similar design to the “Travel” model one I used*.
The heart of all Berkey systems is the black, cylindrical filter that is installed in the upper chamber. It is made from a matrix of several different materials that allow water to flow through while preventing contaminants from doing so. It also uses the principle of adsorption to capture viruses on the exterior of the filter material. The filter material also uses an ion exchange process to capture heavy metals that are in the water. It takes a while for water to pass through these filters, but when it drips out the other side it is clean. Oh, and the filters can be cleaned by scrubbing them with a scouring pad.
Before I used my Berkey system, I assembled it and tested it. The process entails installing the filters, installing the spigot, and attaching the handle to the lid. It only takes a few minutes and doesn’t require any tools. Once assembled, the filters need to be primed with water so that they can begin working. The manufacturer provides a rubber O-ring that can be placed between a water source and the filter. Once that is done, the unit is ready to use.
Once I decided I was going to use this unit; I took the Berkey out of my closet, primed the filters, and filled the upper chamber with tap water. The filters and gravity did the rest, albeit slowly. For the Travel Berkey, it can filter just under 3 gallons (11 liters) an hour. The bottom chamber can hold around 1.5 gallons (5.5 liters), so you can go through that twice in an hour. To dispense the purified water, simply lift the spigot and let the water flow.
How well does it work? From an end-user perspective, the water tastes fine and looks clean. However, there is more to it than just one person’s qualitative assessment. From everything I have read, the Berkey is incredibly effective in removing all sorts of contaminants from water. Here is an incomplete list I compiled while researching this system:
|Berkey Filter Performance|
|Viruses (i.e., Fr Coliphage)||99.999%|
|Bacteria (i.e., Salmonella Enterica)||99.999%|
|Microorganisms (i.e., Fecal Coliform)||99.9%|
|Pharmaceutical Drugs (i.e., Acetaminophen)||99.9%|
|VOCs (i.e., Benzene)||99.9%|
|Petroleum (i.e., Diesel Fuel)||99.9%|
In other words, the Berkey filter will provide clean water from unknown or unreliable sources. It will keep contaminants out, meaning safe drinking water. One other thing to keep in mind, salt water will damage the filters. Both seawater and soft water will damage the filters so don’t put those in your Berkey!
The MSRP for the Travel Berkey is $228, which includes two filters. Under normal use, this setup should filter about 6,000 gallons (22,000 liters) of water. The cost per gallon is $0.038 for the first set of filters. A replacement set of two filters has an MSRP of $107, meaning the cost per gallon goes down to $0.017 for subsequent sets of filters. While the initial costs are high, the cost per unit of water is low and the filters last a VERY long time.
I found myself using the Berkey more frequently than the Brita Filter Pitcher for most of my water needs. The water tasted great and was easy to dispense for both drinking and cooking. Even though it took longer to filter than the Brita, the result was worth it and I ended up putting much more water through the Berkey during by (unplanned) evaluation. Based on my experience in using it, I definitely prefer the Berkey as a filtration method. I like it so much, I plan on taking it with me on future camping trips despite it’s large size.
Superior water filtration and purification. Solid construction and design.
Slow speed, needs to be primed before use. Large size despite being labeled the “Travel” model.
Berkey water filters are neither the fastest nor most compact units out there. However, their filtration methods are incredibly effective against all manner of waterborne contaminants and pathogens. I use it and recommend it to anybody who wants to be sure they have safe drinking water at all times.
Overall Rating 8/10
*There is also a Berkey Light Water Filter made from plastic that uses the same filter technology as the stainless steel models. It weighs less and is designed to be used outside.
Feature image source: Your Water Filter Guide
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If you’re looking for other great Berkey products, check out these options:
- Want the Berkey featured in this post? Get the Travel Berkey Water Filter with 2 Black Berkey Filters and 2 PF2 Fluoride Filters now!
- Already have a Berkey and are just needing to replace a few filters? These Black Berkey Replacement Filters & Fluoride Filters are what you need.
- Looking for the whole package? This Royal Berkey Water Filter 3 Gallon System Bundle is for you!
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